The Summer of Going Slow and Thinking of “Home”

Summer is here … sizzling hot, sweaty, and unavoidable. When I was younger, I loved it. School was out, no homework, trips to the beach, reading books, and being lazy. Now, in the second half, I sometimes find myself feeling lazy and slightly annoyed. With the weight of adult responsibility, worries, and busy-ness, I can be grumpy about the added heat. Then, I always try to catch myself. Good to refocus on the uses of summer — now I think of it more as a God-blessed time out. “Thank you” I say to the heat, the torpor, the laziness. How could there be any other good response than to s-l-o-w down and take a nap? It is ordinary time in the spiritual calendar. Time to just stop. I invite to you to join in the slow lane this summer and make sure to pick some days to just do nothing, except to be.

While I have been s-l-o-wing, I often think of “home.” When my parents died a year and a half ago, one of the suns of my life orbit went out. When the center of a family is gone, so many things change. Old family hurts surface; care-giving that once demanded so much time, disappears; and the whole notion of what is “home” changes. A friend once quoted the old adage “Home is where they always have to take you in.” These days, I am not so sure. As a spiritual teacher and director, I listen for hours to men and women who tell me sadly, tearfully about their families spinning out of control. Parents are ill or dying, siblings aren’t talking to one another, no one is sure where to go home. Where exactly is “home” anymore?

A few days ago at an evening meditation called Jazz Vespers, the homilist noted how “weary” we all seem to be given the world situation. I had just read that a record sixty eight million people in the world are displaced from their homes — drought, famine, invasions, poverty, and unspeakable levels of every kind of violence and war — have uprooted their lives and forced them on the move. Then someone read this Poem called Home.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

— Warsan Shire (b, 1988)

So, maybe while you are there doing some good nothing this summer, you could ponder a bit about what “home” means in your life right now. Are you missing some home that once was or pining away for some heavenly home way far out there? Maybe home depends on an “I’m sorry” to someone or is as close as a dog? Maybe the shade of a tree is home? Perhaps your own room could become home? Wherever home is for you, it’s probably worth noticing, holding close, or simply breathing a “thank you.” And, if you can’t find a home right now, I pray you find one. It might just mean wrapping your hands around your own precious body and holding the loving heart given by God. That is the one home no one can ever take away.

— Christopher